It took a few times of hearing about Congresswoman Louise Slaughter’s death for it to truly sink in. She was the type of person who seemed larger than life. She and I had known each other for 45 years, and it doesn’t seem possible that she could be gone.
She first came into
my life when she decided to run for a Democratic seat on the Monroe County
Legislature while I was the Deputy Campaign Manager for the Monroe County
Republican Committee. After losing two
close races, she finally won in her third try.
She was unstoppable even then. After
being on the County Legislature, she worked for Mario Cuomo when he was the Secretary
of State. She then moved on to be in the
State Assembly, and then in 1986, she won her first term in Congress. When she died, she was in her 16th
term in Congress. Over the years, her
stature had risen until she was one of the most powerful members of Congress.
Our paths crossed again
in the early 90s when I decided to start an international program at Camp Good
Days, Doing a World of Good, so that children from around the world affected by
cancer could come together with children from Western New York to come to our
recreational facility on Keuka Lake. In
the first year of us providing the program, some of the countries who wanted to
participate were having trouble getting exit visas. I flew with the people who were in charge of
the program to Washington DC to meet with various friends to see who we could
get help from, and after talking to a few people, we ended up meeting with
Louise after lunch at her office. She
came out to meet us, and made us feel instantly welcome. She gave us so much of her time that we
almost missed our flight back to Rochester.
She and her office helped us so much when we first started the Doing a
World of Good program, and since that program has started, we have had children
attend from 35 different countries.
season, for the first time in 25 years, I didn’t have a dog in the fight, and
so I was home watching the results on television with my wife, Wendy. When Bob King defeated Tom Frey, Steve
Minarik, the Republican County Chairman said during his speech, now that we have
gotten rid of Tom Frey, next we’re coming after you, Congresswoman Louise
Slaughter. My wife, Wendy, looked at me
and said, Gary, you can’t let that happen.
So a few days after the election, Louise and I met for coffee at the
Coal Tower in Pittsford, where I told her that of all the people we met with on
our trip to Washington DC, she could gave just given us lip service, but instead,
she helped more than anyone else to make our program successful. And so, I said that if she needed any help
with her election in the following year, I would be happy to help. Louise asked, and I did. We did a radio spot and a mailing for her,
and she was able to win her re-election.
From that point on,
Louise and my relationship took on a special meaning, and Louise and Bob became
friends of Wendy and mine, and we would all go out to dinner together. I received a phone call one summer, while I was
down at camp, from Louise in Washington, asking me to call her back because she
needed a favor. She said that she was
having a fundraiser at the Convention Center, but there was a vote scheduled
for President Clinton’s Crime Bill, and she needed to stay in Washington
DC. She asked me if I would represent
her and introduce Vice President Al Gore at her fundraiser where he was a
special guest. I left camp, went home,
and changed, and went to the fundraiser where I sat with the Vice President,
welcomed the guests, and explained why Louise couldn’t make it. I was very honored that she had asked me, and
this shows just how close our relationship was.
Louise was a great supporter of Camp Good
Days. She helped with the Kazoo Fest
where she would sell kazoos at the Eastview Mall, and she also helped to arrange
a visit for the campers to meet Vice President Al Gore in Washington DC, and
arranged not only a special tour of the White House, but also of other sites in
Washington DC. She spent some time down at our recreational facility on Keuka
Lake to see the volunteers and campers when we were in the summer season, and
she would often come over to the office in Mendon to meet our staff. Then, when I had the idea a few years ago for
Cancer Mission 2020, the end of cancer by the end of the decade, Louise was one
of the first people I went to, and she was very, very supportive.
While Louise and I
didn’t often agree on many issues over the years, me being a Republican and
Louise being a Democrat, we had such a great respect for each other. When people would ask me why I always
supported her even though we didn’t see eye-to-eye on many issues, I would say
that she is a woman who has been in office for many years at the local, state
and federal levels without even a hint of scandal, which is very rare to see
these days. She truly cared about her
community, and was an upstanding person.
I think that this community has
lost one of its most influential people, and it will be very hard to fill the
void her passing has created.
When her husband,
Bob, died I thought that she would consider ending her career, especially since
he was her constant companion after he retired from Eastman Kodak; they were truly
a team. She ended up deciding that she
still had something to offer, and remained in public office.
I will miss Louise
dearly and our periodical coffees that we would have at the Starbucks on the
corner of Clover and Monroe, and I know that I can speak on behalf of the campers
and families of Camp Good Days, that we will all miss her commitment and
willingness to make a difference. She
was truly a remarkable woman, a loyal friend, and a political force to be
reckoned with and respected.